Over 300 outbound travel firms apply for shutdown amid pandemic

A total 338 outbound travel agencies in Vietnam applied for revocation of business licenses last year, three times higher than 2019, due to the Covid-19 crisis.

tourism, international travel firms, Vietnam, shutdown, coronavirus, international tourists, border closure

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) data also shows the number of newly-established travel companies in 2020 decreased by more than 30 percent from the previous year to 201.

There are currently 3,339 travel firms operating in the country, including 2,519 outbound and 820 inbound.

Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, told a travel workshop on Tuesday up to 60 percent of tourism industry employees lost their jobs or had their working hours reduced last year.

Vietnam earned tourism revenues of VND312.2 trillion ($13.5 billion) in 2020, down 56 percent year-on-year. A total 3.83 million foreign tourists visited the country, down 76 percent, according to VNAT.

Its tally of foreign tourists reached an all-time high of 18 million in 2019 and the tourism industry earned VND720 trillion ($30.8 billion). The government had set a target of welcoming 20 million foreign visitors in 2020 and expected industry revenues of $35 billion. But the Covid-19 crisis that broke out in the country in late January last year dashed these expectations.

Lai Minh Duy, CEO of HCMC-based TST Tourist, said Covid-19 is considered a test for travel firms. "Some could pass the exam, while others had to leave the market."

To navigate through the crisis TST Tourist has focused on domestic travel, designing tailor-made products to approach more Vietnamese travelers.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung said because Vietnam has no international tourists due to Covid-19 restrictions, if outbound travel firms cannot restructure, they would not survive.

Hung added travel companies should not be pessimistic or optimistic, but reconsider their strategies and learn how to adapt to new circumstances. He advised agencies to focus on the domestic market as it is still unclear when international air routes would reopen to foreigners.

Vietnam is not considering a resumption of international commercial flights with the Covid-19 situation remaining intense globally, vaccine distribution uncertain and a new coronavirus variant having appeared.

The nation grappled with two waves of Covid-19, the first starting in late January and the second in late July.

The government has closed national borders and canceled all international flights since March 25 with only Vietnamese repatriates and foreign experts and highly-skilled workers allowed in with stringent conditions.

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